Daily Archives: April 13, 2013




All together now —

Here, let The World’s Worst Newspaper “explain”

The BBC on Friday rejected loud calls to ban the song “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” from its airwaves after the apparent success of a Facebook campaign to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher, the divisive former prime minister, by driving sales of the tune from “The Wizard of Oz” up the British singles chart.
In a statement, the controller of BBC Radio 1, Ben Cooper, said that while he found “the campaign to promote the song in response to the death of Baroness Thatcher as distasteful as anyone,” the channel’s weekly review of the most popular singles could not simply “ignore a high new entry which clearly reflects the views of a big enough portion of the record-buying public to propel it up the charts.”

Though of course they long to.

By way of compromise, Mr. Cooper said he had decided “that we should treat the rise of the song, based as it is on a political campaign to denigrate Lady Thatcher’s memory, as a news story.” So, he said, the BBC “will play a brief excerpt of it in a short news report during the show which explains to our audience why a 70-year-old song is at the top of the charts.”
While acknowledging that the broadcast could offend Mrs. Thatcher’s family and supporters, Mr. Cooper added, “To ban the record from our airwaves completely would risk giving the campaign the oxygen of further publicity and might inflame an already delicate situation.”
Mrs. Thatcher herself made famous use of the same metaphor in 1985, shortly after the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 by Islamist militants, when she argued:
We must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend. In our societies we do not believe in constraining the media, still less in censorship. But ought we not to ask the media to agree among themselves a voluntary code of conduct, a code under which they would not say or show anything which could assist the terrorists’ morale or their cause while the hijack lasted?”

IOW, ordinary everyday British people are exactly like terrorist hijackers. Lovely.

In a television interview on Friday, one of the organizers of the Facebook campaign, Mark Biddiss, said that for many people, buying the record was “a very cathartic experience,” even if it also enriched the corporate owners of the rights to the “Wizard of Oz” soundtrack.
Other supporters of the campaign noted with satisfaction that the lyrics to the “Wizard of Oz” soundtrack were written by E. Y. Harburg, an American songwriter best known for his Depression-era classic “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” Mr. Harburg, who died in 1981, was blacklisted in the 1950s for his left-wing politics.”


Indeed he was.

E.Y. “Yip” Harburg was born Isidore Hochberg to Jewish immigrant parents on the lower east side of New York City on April 8, 1898. He was nicknamed “Yipsel” (Yiddish for squirrel) for his constant clowning and unbounded energy. Faithful Orthodox Jews, his parents immersed Harburg in the positive aspects of the world around him, including the arts. Yiddish theater had a profound effect upon him; the deft blending of humor, fantasy and social commentary left an indelible mark on his own work. He worked at many jobs while growing up, including putting pickles in jars at a small pickle factory, selling newspapers, and lighting street lamps along the docks of the East River.” He attended high school at Townsend Harris Hall, an experimental school for talented children, where he worked on the school newspaper with fellow student Ira Gershwin.

After graduation from City College of New York in 1921, Harburg worked as a journalist in South America.” When he returned to the United States, he became co-proprietor of an electrical appliance company that went out of business after the 1929 stock market crash.

Harburg’s old friend Gershwin loaned him some money and introduced him to a number of talented composers and writers. Harburg ventured into songwriting by writing lyrics for music by Jay Gorney, a former lawyer. In 1929 they supplied six songs for Earl Carroll’s Sketch Book. For the 1932 revue, Americana, they wrote what has been called “the anthem of the Depression,” “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” Considered by Republicans to be anti-capitalist propaganda, it was almost dropped from the show and attempts were made to ban it from the radio.

And here to sing it everyone’s favorite commie pinko — Bing Crosby.

Harburg and Gorney were offered contracts with Paramount Pictures, and during the following decades, Harburg wrote lyrics for the music of many composers, including Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, Jerome Kern, Jule Styne, and Burton Lane.” Harburg collaborated with Duke on several shows, including Walk a Little Faster in 1932, which introduced “April in Paris.”


Harburg’s very successful partnership with Arlen continued sporadically over many decades. With Billy Rose, they wrote “It’s Only a Paper Moon” in 1933. They followed up with a successful revue, Life Begins at 8:40, which included lyric collaborations with his old friend, Ira Gershwin, including “Fun to Be Fooled,” “You’re a Builder Upper” and “Let’s Take a Walk Around the Block.”

The team’s pinnacle came in 1939, when they wrote the score for the movie The Wizard of Oz, which Harburg approached as a Depression fantasy. Songs from it included “Over the Rainbow,” “Ding, Dong! The Witch is Dead,” and “We’re Off to See the Wizard.”

In 1943, they wrote the score for the movie Cabin in the Sky, which featured “Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe.” Harburg and Arlen’s 1944 Broadway musical, Bloomer Girl, which starred Celeste Holm, was unlike the typical musical of the day, because it addressed slavery, the woman’s reform movement, and the horrors of war. Celeste Helm starred as a rebellious young daughter of a hoopskirt manufacturer, who refuses to wear hoopskirts and marry her father’s choice of a husband. Joining forces with her progressive aunt, Dolly Bloomer, the two women work together for abolition and women’s rights. The score ranged from the haunting “The Eagle and Me,” to the witty “It Was Good Enough For Grandma,” and the romantic “Right as the Rain.”

Take it away Van Dyke!

With Kern, he wrote the score for the 1944 Deanna Durbin movie musical, Can’t Help Singing, which included the title song, “More and More,” “Any Moment Now,” and “Californ-i-ay.” The duo also wrote “And Russia is Her Name” for the highly controversial pro-Soviet 1944 movie Song of Russia.

In 1947, Harburg and Burton Lane collaborated on what is considered the masterpiece of Harburg’s career, the Broadway musical Finian’s Rainbow. In keeping with Harburg’s passion for social issues, Finian’s Rainbow dealt with issues of race and prejudice amid leprechauns, pots of gold, and politics in the fictitious southern U.S. state of Missitucky.” The score included “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?,” “Old Devil Moon,” “Look to the Rainbow,” “If This Isn’t Love,” “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love,” and “Necessity.”

And now the nitt-gritty.

Harburg, who had been a member of several radical organizations but never officially joined the Communist party, was named in Red Channels. This pamphlet, distributed to organizations involved in employing people in the entertainment industry, listed 150 people who had been involved in promoting left-wing causes. This, along with his affiliation with the Hollywood Democratic Committee, led to his blacklisting by the film industry as well as the revocation of his passport. He was not helped by the failure of his next project with composers Sammy Fain and Fred Saidy.” Flahooley opened on Broadway in 1951 to negative reviews. Set in a toy factory, Harburg parodied the rabid anti-communist sentiment and witch hunts that pervaded 1950s America through a fantastic storyline that was nearly impossible to follow. The cast included the Bill Baird Marionettes, Yma Sumac and Barbara Cook. Despite the score, which included “Here’s To Your Illusions,” audiences stayed away

Imagine –Yma Sumac in a communist musical. No wonder it bombed.


In spite of the blacklist, Harburg continued to write poetry and musicals, including 1957’s Jamaica, with music by Arlen and Lena Horne as the leading lady, and 1961’s The Happiest Girl in the World (set to music by Offenbach). Based on Aristophanes’ anti-war Lysistrata, it presented Harburg with an opportunity to mock growing militarism of the industrial nations. A collaboration with Jule Styne produced Darling of the Day in 1968. It starred Vincent Price and Patricia Routledge, who won a Tony Award for her performance in this short-lived musical about an anti-social painter who seeks anonymity and romance with a rambunctious young widow in downscale Putney-on-the-Thames, England in 1908.

Harburg and Arlen wrote some songs for Judy Garland near the end of her career, when they wrote the score for the animated movie Gay Purree (1962), in which she sang “Paris is a Lonely Town,” and the title song for her final movie, I Could Go On Singing (1963).

On the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death in 1968, they wrote the song “Silent Spring.”

Harburg once said, “I am one of the last of a small tribe of troubadours who still believe that life is a beautiful and exciting journey with a purpose and grace which are well worth singing about.” Harburg died in a car accident in Los Angeles, California on March 5, 1981.

However, Wiki notes –

Yip Harburg was incorrectly reported to have died in a traffic accident. His death on March 5, 1981 was from a heart attack while his car was stopped at a traffic light on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.


Regarding his unindicted co-conspirator:

Harold Arlen (February 15, 1905 – April 23, 1986) was an American composer of popular music, having written over 500 songs, a number of which have become known worldwide. In addition to composing the songs for The Wizard of Oz, including the classic 1938 song, “Over the Rainbow,” Arlen is a highly regarded contributor to the Great American Songbook. “Over the Rainbow” was voted the twentieth century’s No. 1 song by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

It was the song Thatcherites wanted played in her memory. But as we’ve seen another number from the same film took over.

Arlen was born Hyman Arluck, in Buffalo, New York, United States, the child of a Jewish cantor. His twin brother died the next day. He learned the piano as a youth and formed a band as a young man. He achieved some local success as a pianist and singer and moved to New York City in his early 20s. He worked as an accompanist in vaudeville At this point, he changed his name to Harold Arlen. Between 1926 and about 1934, Arlen appeared occasionally as a band vocalist on records by The Buffalodians, Red Nichols, Joe Venuti, Leo Reisman and Eddie Duchin, usually singing his own compositions.
In 1929, Arlen composed his first well-known song: “Get Happy” (with lyrics by Ted Koehler). Throughout the early and mid-1930s, Arlen and Koehler wrote shows for the Cotton Club, a popular Harlem night club, as well as for Broadway musicals and Hollywood films. Arlen and Koehler’s partnership resulted in a number of hit songs, including the familiar standards “Let’s Fall in Love” and “Stormy Weather.” Arlen continued to perform as a pianist and vocalist with some success, most notably on records with Leo Reisman’s society dance orchestra.
Arlen’s compositions have always been popular with jazz musicians because of his facility at incorporating a blues feeling into the idiom of the conventional American popular song.

IOW he was a Jewish Negro.

In the mid-1930s, Arlen married, and spent increasing time in California, writing for movie musicals. It was at this time that he began working with lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg. In 1938, the team was hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to compose songs for The Wizard of Oz. The most famous of these is the song “Over the Rainbow” for which they won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song. They also wrote “Down with Love” (featured in the 1937 Broadway show, Hooray for What! ), a song later featured in the 2003 movie Down with Love.
Arlen was a longtime friend and former roommate of actor Ray Bolger who would star in The Wizard of Oz, the film for which “Over the Rainbow” was written.
In the 1940s, he teamed up with lyricist Johnny Mercer, and continued to write hit songs like “Blues in the Night”, “Out of this World”, “That Old Black Magic,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home”, “Come Rain or Come Shine”” and “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” .
Arlen composed two defining tunes which bookend Judy Garland’s musical persona: as a yearning, innocent girl in “Over the Rainbow” and a world-weary, “chic chanteuse” with “The Man that Got Away”, the latter written for the 1954 version of the movie ‘A Star Is Born’.

And here she is to sing us out with arguably the most memorable rendition of her signature song.

Fuck You Maggie!